It is that time of year in Japan where the yochiens (kindergarten) open their doors for prospective new students. We don't have a Montessori yochien anywhere near us so we wanted to find somewhere that fitted with our ideals. I know some of you might be wonder why bother sending him at all, well, the main reason is socialization. During the day there are very few kids Ebi-kuns age around to play with and next year there will be non and many of the kids in the neighbourhood that are his age have after school activities of one kind or another. Ebi-kun also needs to learn how things are done in kindy/school, things that I can't teach him because I have never been to a Japanese kindy. I will be still doing things at home with him, with a emphasis on English language, it will also give me some free time to work at my little business - something I am looking forward to. Having 2 hours of uninterrupted time at the moment is a very rare treat indeed.
My friend, who knows me quite well, recommended her kids kindy to me. It is in the grounds of a shrine and run the priest. Her kids did well there and she thought that the kindys principles would be right up my street.
The actually grounds of the yochien are really big, they have a nice big yard and lots of climbing equipment, the place is old but the equipment looks well maintained (although they would probably close it down in the UK due to the over zealous health and safety rules). There are two sandpits, one for the little kids and another where they have little wheel barrows and shovels to dig with. For rainy days there is a big hall with a stage and a large music room decked out with enough instruments so every child can play something.
There is a big emphasis on art, they have a clay room with real clay rather than play-dough, each year they have an art festival where all the kids work gets put on display and the kids are encouraged to paint on BIG pieces of paper.
We were invited to try the clay room out and have a look around the library. The library has 7000 books and the kids can check out 2 a week and there is a book club too. I had a look at the books, there was a great mixture, not just story books but books covering all kinds of topics.
In the grounds they have 2 small rice paddies where the kids learn about the cycle of rice, they also have a veg patch and various animals, including 3 peacocks and a carp pond. I think each class also has their own animal, a rabbit or the such like. There are some wooded areas, perfect for collecting acorns and catching bugs - kid heaven I imagine.
So, although it is not a Montessori school, I do like what they have to offer. Other pluses are that the kids don't have to wear a ridiculous (and expensive) uniform. They have shorts and t-shirt and a smock plus a class cap. The bus will come and pick him up and drop him off at the door, which is fab since I don't drive and it is about 15 mins away by car. I also saw no character goods apart from a giant stuffed Moomin in the library. Some of the kindy's here think that is a selling point so the yard is full of Anpanman slides and the such. The priest is rumoured to be quite strict and with it being a Shinto shrine there is respect for all living things, kids are expected to thank the garden god and the animal god every morning.
We are not a religious family but having my child taught about respect is not a bad thing in my opinion. Needless to say, Ebi-kun is very excited about going, I think he is most excited about having friends to play with every day!
There are 3 other yochiens in the area, one has a tiny yard, so small that only 1 or 2 classes can play out at one time, another is the Anpanman kind of kindy and the third is the expensive, look we wear posh uniform type. Better hope we get in at the one we want, sign up is the start of next month!